Focusing on the case of Poland and utilizing mass opinion survey data, this paper examines the phenomenon of widespread popular disengagement from civic and political life by testing the relative explanatory power of cultural and institutional hypotheses. The former see disengagement as the consequence of values and patterns of behavior that are in some ways incompatible with pluralist politics, whereas the latter see disengagement as the result of a mismatch between the realm of politically relevant individual interests and identities on the one hand, and the realm of available institutions of state–society intermediation on the other.

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